A team of Japanese working in Samoa is preparing for the Samoa Perimeter Relay this Saturday, 2 September 2017.
This 104km race -- organised by Seti Afoa’s Samoa Events -- runs from Sinalei Resort to Tanoa Tusitala Hotel. With six runners per team, it has been a source of fascination for Japanese people living in Samoa.
As such, Japanese teams have been participating since the first race. So why is the long-distance relay so fascinating for Japanese people?
“This is because the first marathon relay race took place a century ago and most Japanese people have been excited by the same kind of races, named Ekiden,” a media statement from the Japanese team said.
“The Hakone Ekiden, on 2 and 3 January, is undoubtedly the most well-known of all the Ekiden races, which gets more than 25 percent of the audience rating every year.
“The first ever race dates back to 1920 and the 2017 race was the 93rd. It is not too much to say Hakone Ekiden is one of the special and traditional events of the New Year holidays in Japan.”
According to Team Japan, one of the factors which makes the race interesting is the difference of distances and elevations at each stage of the course.
“Therefore, devised strategies and tactics are getting much more important to win the race.
“Another important factor is that it embodies a lot of values which are vital to Japanese people, such as perseverance, the importance of teamwork, and a sense of responsibility in ‘passing on the sash’ -- instead of a baton, a tasuki (or sash) is handed from one runner to the next. Japanese teams made their sashes for the race last year and will use them this year as well.
“Ekiden races are now held outside of Japan. They are being held in various countries, including New Zealand, France and Canada. Now, the term Ekiden is on track to becoming a common word in the athletics community.
“We hope Samoa Perimeter Relay will become much more popular and last for centuries. Please cheer up the runners and pay attention to the teamwork of the Japanese teams, bound by handing their tasuki on the day of the race.”